Why William Friedkin Was Wrong About Wes Craven

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For my money William Friedkin is one of the most talented directors working today.  Not everything he does clicks (with the public or box office-wise, for that matter) but as far as I am concerned he’s made one of the best crime thrillers in recent memory with 1985’s To Live And Die In L.A.  Some might suggest that I am crazy, and bring up 1971’s The French Connection, but for my money To Live And Die In L.A., with its combination of a talented director, an outstanding cast and great music hit all the right notes.

Interestingly enough, Friedkin also directed one of the best horror movies, The Exorcist, ever put on celluloid.

And while the movies that Wes Craven created, particularly A Nightmare On Elm Street, managed to tap into The zeitgeist in a way few other films have done besides being visually interesting, though more often then not his movies were products of the time that they were made; which is another way of saying that they don’t age particularly well.

If in doubt check out Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes.  While the idea of cannibalistic mutants preying on hapless tourists is always potentially interesting, the movie has not aged well (though Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake…pretty good, almost brilliantly so).

Let’s contrast that with the The Exorcist.  It’s not only one of the scariest horror movies ever made–I think that Craven’s The Snake And The Rainbow was probably his most effective movie as far as terror goes though it doesn’t have the single-mindedness of Friedkin’s classic.

I also had the feeling that Craven was a horror director less because he actually wanted to do it, that it was a niche that he  happened to fall into (which isn’t an insult by any means.  John Carpenter did some groundbreaking horror films, though recognized, and at times seem embittered by the fact, that it limited his ability to move into other types of filmmaking).

So, while Craven was known as a maker of horror films, it never really felt to me that he committed to the genre to the degree that other directors, such as Carpenter (or even Friedkin himself) have demonstrated.

So Wes Craven will always be known for the horrors that he helped to bring to grisly life, though I am not at all sure that that’s what he would have wanted.

Concussion – Trailer

I have to admit that Will Smith portraying a character with an accent (which I can’t place.  It sounded vaguely Jamaican or Haitian, though not quite) in Peter Landesman’s Concussion caught me off-guard (as did Albert Brooks being virtually bald).

That being said, I heard during Joe Rogan’s podcast that perhaps football players should consider using leather helmets like they did when the sport was first created, with the logic that since a player’s head wouldn’t be nearly as well-protected as they currently are, they would avoid head impacts.

I am not a huge football fan, but it’s certainly a story worth telling.

It Follows – Review

It Follows movie poster

It Follows is a great idea in search of a better movie.”

Based on all the hype that accompanied It Follows theatrical release, you’d think that David Robert Mitchell was the heir apparent to John Carpenter.

And I’m here to tell you it’s just not the case because It Follows is an awesome idea surrounded by a decent movie.  It’s not terrible by any stretch, though its not “One of the most striking American horror films in years” either.

Though that concept…Wow.  The antagonist of the movie is essentially a curse, a sexually-transmitted demon.  Once contracted, the only way to hold off death is to pass it on to someone else, who will have a limited amount of time to do the same.

If you fail to pass it on, it kills you, and works its way down the list of people who have slept with you.

I told you it’s an awesome concept.  I also liked the idea that the movie wasn’t targeting anyone because of sexually promiscuity (in fact, it could be argued that the more people you sleep with, the better off you would be).

The movie takes place in the present day, though the effective soundtrack has a 70’s vibe to it that hightens suspense.

Though as I implied, the movie has problems, the biggest of which is that it too quickly abandons the mythology it’s built up whenever convenient (Quentin Tarantino was right).

For instance, the creature isn’t stupid, but it’s slow and has to walk to get around. This often serves to heighten suspense–like a zombie, there’s an inevitability to the creature that faster-moving terrors often lack–but there’s some oddness that accompanies the behavior that doesn’t serve the movie well.

For instance, the creature just appears in really odd places, and if it could just turn up anywhere it wanted to, it undermines the whole idea of it walking.  For instance, there’s a moment when it turns up on the roof of a house.  Did it climb the roof?  And if so, why?  And if it didn’t, that means it could pretty much appear wherever it wanted, which as I said, pretty much kills the suspense the movie spent valuable time building.

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I Suspect I Know Who Mads Mikkelson Is Playing In Marvel Studios’ Upcoming Doctor Strange

According to Superherohype, Mads Mikkelson (Hannibal) will have a role in Scott Derrickson’s upcoming Marvel Studios feature, Doctor Strange.

Assuming that to be true, they also let slip a little more information than they may have intended, because they also mention that he’ll be playing a villain.

And since Baron Mordo is taken, there’s only one real option, in my humble opinion because, while Doctor Strange has a pretty deep Rogue’s Gallery, most of them are so esoteric that–like Marvel is doing in the case of Thanos–they’ll more than likely use Strange’s introduction to reveal a character who’s presence will reverberate throughout the entire MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

And that character will more than likely be…wait for it…Dormanmu (Eternity or the Living Tribunal would also be kind of awesome, but I suspect that it’s too early for either of them)!

image courtesy of Marveldirectory.com

Think about it, and I think you’ll agree that there are few Doctor Strange villains that they could introduce that would not only drive comics fans apeshit, but would impress casual viewers as well.

And Dormammu, played by Mikkelson, would be beyond incredible.

And this is where Scott Derrickson being a horror director will come into play, namely he has to create the atmosphere were one of Marvel’s stranger villains will not only appear realistic, but demonic and terrifying as well.

Something he’s well-equipped to do if you’ve seen either Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil or The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

And he actually has an interesting mythology, which should buttress his credentials, and connection, with the audience.

And keep in mind that Marvel has done this type of casting in the past, using big-name actors in roles that obscure the actor themselves, such as Vin Diesel as Groot in Guardians Of The Galaxy or James Spader, in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

And Dormammu has the potential–especially if they stick to Steve Ditko’s original designs, as opposed to more modern interpretations of the character–to be absolutely unbelievable.

Sinister 2 – Review

Sinister 2 movie poster

“The ideas behind Sinister 2 are a lot scarier than the movie itself.”

What bothered me most about Ciarán Foy’s Sinister 2 is pretty much exactly what bothered me about Scott Derrickson’s original film, namely that it takes an interestingly horrific idea–children committing heinous crimes–and virtually undermines it by looking at it from the perspective of an adult.

There’s a scene (one of many), when Dylan Collins (Robert Daniel Sloan) is being coerced into watching homemade snuff films made by the children, now disembodied ghosts, that killed their families for the demon, Bughuul (he of the hideously silly name, played by Nicholas King).

There’s an interesting addition to the mythology that indicates that when Dylan finishes watching the ghosts’ home movies, he would be compelled to murder his family, before being taken by the demon.

One horrific murder happens during Christmas, when one of the children kills his family and put the bodies in four graves (which I assume weren’t pre-dug) and buries them up to their necks.

Visually, it was pretty effective, though logically made no sense at all.

They died in their home, yet a young boy supposedly not only dragged four people (one of them probably weighing somewhere in the ballpark of 180-200 pounds) out of their home one at a time (no other way he could do so), then dug graves deep enough that when they lied down horizontally they could be easily buried?

Remember that I mentioned earlier that this happened during Christmas?  The reason it’s worth bringing back up is because earth. like anything else, freezes when cold, which makes it really hard to break.

And a little kid not only dug one shallow grave, but four others?   Extremely unlikely.

These overly elaborate murder scenarios–there’s another aptly titled ‘Fishing Trip’–took me out of the movie virtually every time they turned up, because while they may look horrific, they didn’t make any practical sense.

The movie between the frankly ridiculous ritual murders was pretty effective as we witnessed the ghosts trying to sway Dylan to their will, though there are few things less scary than children trying to look scary, when happens a lot in this movie.

Quibbles aside, Sinister 2 is worth catching because it’s genuinely atmospheric and Foy’s direction is effective, though as a movie it’s merely interesting, when it could have been terrifying.

And I would advise that you leave the theater three or four minutes before the movie finishes because the ending is just too dumb for such a smart director like Ciarán Foy.

Cop Car – Trailer

I am really curious about Jon Watts’ Cop Car, mainly because on the strength of it Watts was chosen to direct Sony/Marvel Studios’s upcoming Spider-Man reboot.

Do I want to see it more than I do Sinister 2?  Not necessarily, but I have to admit that I am curious.

American Mary – Review

“What I Imagine Bill Cosby’s Fantasies Are Like.”

I have to admit that I approached Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska’s American Mary with more than a little bit of reluctance.  Part of it was due to the reviews, which were mainly positive, though there was an implication that there was something more to it, a torture porn-ish aspect, which I find distasteful (truth is, most movies critics labelled as ‘torture porn’ that I have seen I don’t necessarily deserve the label, in that there’s a point to the violence).

And speaking of which, I don’t think that I have actually seen one movie that that label applies, and I have seen some particularly violent movies.

So I am saying that it doesn’t exist?  I have no idea, though I haven’t yet seen it.

So I avoided it (besides, most movies are more terrifying in my head than they ever could be in reality–in celluloid?).

Though good horror movies (on Netflix) are getting hard to find, so why the frak not.  That being said, I’m still avoiding The Human Centipede movies though; just don’t see the point)

But I gave American Mary a look, and was glad I did.  It’s pretty clever, and surprisingly more nuanced than I gave it credit for being.

And Katharine Isabelle, who plays Mary Mason, has real presence in a role that rides entirely on her shoulders.  She’s pretty reserved no matter what happens to her, which makes sense in the world that her character occupies (What’s also interesting is the contempt that some surgeons hold not only for each other, but for their patients.  I have no idea how accurate a portrayal that is, but it’s an interesting contrast to how they tend to portrayed–as saints–on most network television).

Mary Mason is fascinating, particularly the transition from optimism to a cynicism as extreme as any surgery she does in the movie.  And the Soska sisters understand that its not about the gore–it’s not terribly bloody, though there are moments–than the suggestion of gore.

American Mary is currently on Netflix, and it’s worth remembering that a woman scorned cuts deeper than any scalpel.